If you’ve been festival hopping or been clued in to the indie music scene, you might have noticed the increase in the number of reggae bands and gigs lately.
Even though the genre has never been out of fashion — invariably every pop–rock band tends to incorporate the style in their repertoire — India had never quite witnessed any dedicated acts that performed only reggae. But now, there are several EDM and live acts — Reggae Rajahs, The Ska Vengers, Su-Real and Delhi Sultanate — that are changing the scene.
Expanding beyond theexpat audience Delhi was the first city to witness the trend, as many of these bands are based there.
Till about two years ago, a regular gig in Delhi by a niche act such as Reggae Rajahs would see a rainbow crowd comprising mainly expatriates. You’d find the usual dreadlocked Rastafarians, besides hip-swaying westerners, who swore by the infectious vibe and socio–political relevance of reggae.
“When we started out, it used to be a small affair supported by very few people, mostly expats who were acquainted with and interested in reggae,” reminisces singer Raghav ‘Diggy’ Dang, who performs with both Reggae Rajahs and The Ska Vengers.
According to him, YouTube has been pivotal in bringing on board new fans. “It has exposed people to music that they haven’t listened to before and are curious about. Now they know that there’s more to reggae than just Bob Marley,” says Dang, who performed to a packed crowd at the Ragasthan festival last month.
And thanks to the multi-city network of live music venues such as Blue Frog and Hard Rock Cafe that have given visibility to such acts beyond the standalone gigs.
Experimenting with new soundsThe Ska Vengers, that specialises in the less–explored genre of ska — a fast–paced rhythmic style that gave rise to reggae — also performs Afrobeat, jazz and soul. However, Stefan Kaye, who plays keyboards, says they’re not harking back to the bygone era.
“We’re not revivalists. We play sub–genres that are related to reggae, but our sound is contemporary. You’d even find punk styles creeping into our music.” The band will soon be performing at Blue Frog on December 27, as a part of their album launch tour.
Dancing to their tunes
If there’s a reason for the success of these bands, it is inarguably because reggae music has the ability to make people dance. With a strong emphasis on danceable grooves and sing–along melodies, reggae is synonymous with music that makes you happy.
“Brass instruments play a huge part in reggae. And as Indians, dancing to the tunes of brass bands, at weddings etc, comes naturally to us,” says Dang. “The fact that our music makes people dance also explains why we happen to be the only live act at the Sunburn festival,” he adds.